Title challengers Arsenal make the short trip to Upton Park on Boxing Day to face West Ham looking to pick up the win which would keep them in contention at the top during this busy period. Having been seven points clear just a few weeks ago, they have been pegged back by the clubs around them and now sit second behind Liverpool on goal difference. The top five teams are separated by only two points showing how tight the league is this year and how crucial victories are, especially away from home. Having not won in their last three games, including a 6-3 loss t Man City, Arsenal will want to get back to winning ways against West Ham.
The Hammers also have problems of their own, languished in 17th place just above the relegation zone. Having lost three and drawn one of their last four, West Ham have anything but momentum at the moment. Fixtures against the likes of Arsenal are not going to prove as vital as matches against the around them but a positive result against the Gunners will be a great confidence booster going into the important clash against West Brom after.
This fixture has been completely dominated by Arsenal in recent times having been unbeaten in the last 10 and winning the last five in a row. In this fixture last season Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners at Upton Park having come back from a goal down with strikes from Giroud, Walcott and Cazorla.
Andy Carroll is still not fit enough for West Ham who will be frustrated with their record signings injury problems since making the move to Upton Park from Liverpool. Winston Reid and Stewart Downing are both out injured as well as Ricardo Vaz Te who has been out with a dislocated shoulder.
Laurent Koscielny is pencilled in for a return against The Hammers but it may be touch and go as to whether he makes the squad. Oxlade-Chamberlain is still recovering from a knee injury so will not be feature but may make his return next month. Diaby and Sanogo are also on the long-term injury list. With Podolski now fit he may be in with shout of a starting berth if Arsene Wenger decides to tinker with his first team.
- In the last match between the two, Arsenal thrashed West Ham 5-1 at the Emirates.
- Arsenal are unbeaten against West Ham in their last 10 matches in the Premier League, winning 8 times and drawing twice.
- West Ham have a chance conversion rate of only 9% compared to Arsenal’s 20%.
West Ham: Carlton Cole
Finally starting to show glimpses of why he was re- signed by Sam Allardyce, Carlton Cole could have a crucial part to play against Arsenal. Since his return almost 2 months ago he has only managed 2 goals but both of them have been clear cut chances showing that he is quite clinical in front of goal given the chance. Allardyce has mostly used him as an impact sub since his return only starting 1 game and making 6 substitute appearances but that has paid off as both of his goals scored have come after he has come on as a substitute. He has the highest conversion rate in the team with 40% of his chances being converted and as Modibo Maiga still hasn’t managed to find a goal yet this season, Carlton Cole could be in line to start against Arsenal and will want to take the opportunity with both hands.
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey
Without a doubt Arsenal’s standout player this season, Aaron Ramsey hasn’t been quite as impressive in recent weeks as he has been but the same could be said of majority of their players right now. Currently Arsenal’s top scorer with 8 goals this season, he has also the most open play assists with 6 out of 23 chances created. He has also made the most passes in the Arsenal team with 1143 passes and 976 of them being accurate. Ramsey has not only been effective offensively, but has also made a huge contribution defensively making a total of 64 tackles, the most in the Premier League, with 84% of those tackles being successful. Having also made the most ground duels in the league with 217 and 51% of them being successful, it shows his well rounded abilities on the pitch which is crucial for a player in his position.
It would be a real dent in Arsenal’s title bid if they were not to win at Upton Park having only gained one out of the last nine points available to them. With other teams around them also likely to pickup points, it is crucial for The Gunners to keep up with the pack and although I feel that West Ham will test Arsenal, the end result will favour the men in red.